Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Written & Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
After 1982, John Carpenter and Debra Hill honestly had zero interest in making more movies about Michael Meyers. The producers, however, saw there was still money to get out of the Halloween brand. The compromise was that Halloween III not be a direct sequel to the preceding two films; this meant zero Michael. Instead, they proposed that Halloween movies could become an annual horror anthology. Each film would be set on the holiday but feature original characters in a plot divorced from previous entries. To start this off, writer Nigel Keane penned a script but was so displeased with changes that he asked for his name to be removed. Director Tommy Lee Wallace did a rewrite; therefore, he receives the story credit.
It’s eight days before Halloween, and shop owner Harry Grimbridge is found babbling about someone coming. He’s taken to a hospital in Northern California but murdered by a mute shadowy figure. This sparks the interest of Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins), who meets Harry’s daughter Ellie. Ellie is convinced something happened when her father visited the Silver Shamrock factory in Santa Mira, and she is headed there to investigate. Challis tags along, and they find themselves posing as husband and wife trying to get a peek of what goes on inside the production facility. The horror behind Harry’s death seems to be linked to the garish masks Silver Shamrock is promoting on television 24/7. Shamrock’s owner Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) is a deceptively charismatic figure hiding a terrible secret in his company’s newest items.
The basic premise of Halloween III isn’t a terrible one, but you need more than the seed of an idea to make a movie work. Unfortunately, the film never does anything entirely interesting with the concept beyond revealing it near the end of the second act, and then that’s it. The villain of the film doesn’t get much development, there are some hints about his larger agenda, but it’s delivered in such a clunky way. Part of the problem is that the movie feels very rushed. I’m not a fan of stretching movies out to unbearable lengths, but there isn’t a lot of meat on these bones. It’s 98 minutes long, and I’m wondering how much a good rewrite would have helped heighten the story’s horror. The diabolical trick of the masks comes off as laughable more than scary, in my opinion.
There are a lot of pieces to the story that feels as if they were added during drafts but not tied together. Cochran employs incredibly lifelike robots in his scheme, but they don’t seem to have any connection to the masks. Then there’s the theft of a piece of Stonehenge that is imbued with dark occult powers. Cochran seems to be a practitioner of Celtic paganism, but it’s unclear what his larger plan is. He’s going to use the masks to kill a bunch of kids and turn their heads into a bunch of bugs and snakes. This is stated that it’s part of a Halloween sacrifice, but why? I just didn’t get why this was so important to him and why he was doing it now when Silver Shamrock is said to have existed for decades.
Our protagonists don’t help things as they are both duds. Ellie is devoid of any character development and just jumps into bed with Challis without a second thought. Challis is an uncharismatic drunk who just tags along out of boredom, shirking his fatherly duties to spend the weekend with his kids. Now you could play these negative traits as interesting flaws, but they just seem to be things he does that the movie isn’t very interested in looking at. The side characters are primarily exaggerated cartoons that aren’t handled any more interestingly than our heroes. The only character I found to be somewhat interesting was a forensic scientist Challis has a possible ongoing relationship with. She is intrigued by a lack of organic matter after an explosion and is the one who cracks the robot angle for the audience. I think she should have tagged along with Ellie and left Challis at home to swig more whiskey.
I don’t think the idea of making Halloween an anthology-style film series was a bad idea. Trick r Treat decades later would do something similar, and it definitely worked there. However, for this rebranding to have worked, they needed a more robust script with better-written characters. Unfortunately, the lack of talent in this picture would lead Halloween back to Michael Meyers and securely center the franchise forever on the masked slasher. It’s a shame because Halloween has so much more potential outside that one character.